Talking Points 31st October

Should the world talk to the Taliban? Governments in the region are certainly entertaining the thought, but as attacks continue like this one against the Afghan government – should this even be considered? Tom has been working hard over the last couple of days to set up a programme where you can speak directly to a spokesman from the Taliban.

It’s been agreed in principal for today, but as I’m sure you’ll appreciate it is technically and logistically challenging. So if you would like to speak directly to a Taliban representative – post your questions here and we’ll do our best to make it happen.

The Roman Catholic Church has issued guidance for prospective Catholic priests to be psychologically tested to identify those unable to control their sexual urges. The rewriting of the rules comes after a number of sex abuse scandals in recent years. The tests will be voluntary and aim to vet those with “deep-seated homosexual tendencies”, an “uncertain sexual identity,” “excessive rigidity of character” and “strong affective dependencies”. The document also makes reference to heterosexual urges. But is the church going about this all wrong? Should they now accept that celibacy in the church is outdated?

The horror unfolding in DRC has led aid agencies, including the Red Cross, to say a human catastrophe is now gripping parts of the country. Reports now suggest that soldiers sent to protect civilians are turning on them and looting and killing. Yet still action on the ground to help these people is slow. We discussed this at length yesterday and the idea of whether there is compassion fatigue when it comes to Africa?

Just four days to go until America goes to the polls in one of the most eagerly awaited Presidential elections, but are our hopes for change unrealistic? As Barack Obama continues to lead the polls his advisors are now turning their attention to lowering the electorate’s expectations for his Presidency. There are fears that in the current climate he may not be able to deliver the whole hearted change his supporters hope for. Do we expect too much from our politicians?

20 Responses to “Talking Points 31st October”

  1. 1 Dinka Alpayo,kampala
    October 31, 2008 at 11:23

    Why Talibans use to killed civilians ? i do not understands who are Talibans, are you terrorist? and that is because of your actions and reactions are doing more harms than good to the civilians, they people you pretends to be protecting. As a former rebels, liberator or insurgence (SPLA/M) by myself we don’t kills civilians you are fighting for. Please change tactics of Suicides and talks to the world because every problems on this world end on the table as everyone of us knows .

  2. 2 roebert
    October 31, 2008 at 12:14

    Taliban: Yes, please, start talking. Their point of view may verge on the lunatic but there is the real possibility that talks may influence and modify that view. Talking is vital in this conflict-ridden world, and is even more necessary when the ‘war on terror’ is clearly a failure. Besides these points, it is up to the saner party to initiate dialogue, which is the saner option. It should at least be given a try.

    Celibacy and the RC Church: Psychological testing won’t be of much use, and has an inquisitorial flavour. Get rid of the underlying problems, enforced celibacy and unaccountability. Priests should be accountable to the parishes they serve.

    DRC: The only realistic answer for many African nations at this time is one or another form of recolonisation. I kid you not, nor do I relish the thought of imperialism. Yet mild and just colonisation seems the most compassionate option for the distressed and pauperised ‘ruled’ masses of Africa today.

  3. 3 Dan
    October 31, 2008 at 12:51

    I think that Politicians are floating this idea as they cannot think creatively.
    Thanks to the Pakistani Security Service the Taliban were born. Now existing in the tribal areas of Pakistan they can launch attacks with impunity and preach their message of hate and repression and sending an ever increasing number of suicide bombers into Afghanistan.
    Pakistan refuses to deal with the lawless tribal areas but worse will not allow anyone else to deal with them either. Is Pakistan still complicit with the Taliban? When does the civilized world finally say “enough” and ignore Pakistan’s territorial sovereignty and go into the tribal areas?
    I cannot see how one would talk with Taliban monsters. How will woman’s rights be upheld under a Taliban regime that thinks of women as breeding stock only.
    How can we deal with these terrorists that still harbor bin-Laden?
    The idea to talk to the Taliban is born out a frustration resulted from the Military in the area not being able to do what they do best and forced to wage a politically correct war.
    Should the Taliban return to power in Afghanistan it will only be a matter of time before another major terrorist attack is carried out in a Western City as Taliban “diplomats” travel with immunity and cannot be searched.

  4. 4 gary
    October 31, 2008 at 12:55

    Yes, we should talk to the Taliban. The Pashtun clearly identify with the cause; but it is likely support for aggressive warfare is not as monolithic and hardcore as it might seem. Every group has peace makers, this one can’t be the exception. Initial contacts might meet an apparently solid, hostile facade; but all history militates against this actually being the case. Somewhere there be reasonable men.

  5. 5 Katharina in Ghent
    October 31, 2008 at 13:15

    Re. Roman Catholic Church:

    The celibacy was outdated from the first day on. The whole reason why priests should not have a family on their own was so that their belongings would fall back to Mother Church when they die, instead of getting passed on to their children. Ever since celibacy was started, numerous priests throughout the centuries have not followed it, including the popes themselves. Unfortunately, one of the major trademarks of the Catholic Church is denial of reality, and therefore they keep hanging on to this “tradition”, even though there is not one single good reason for it. If the Church started to loosen up on their rigid rules, a lot of problems would disappear virtually overnight.

  6. 6 Shaun in Halifax
    October 31, 2008 at 13:20

    At the risk of sounding hokey, I think it’s time we stop swapping explosives and start swapping ideas.

    The Taliban’s political and economic agenda — to me — is disastrous, self-destructive and bassackwards. But that’s an ethnocentric view from a person with little experience living under the hardships and conflict in the middle east.

    We in the west gave up trying to govern according to the Bible years ago. But to my understanding, the Taliban have a lot of power and influence in there sphere of influence, and many Muslims like sharia law. Diplomacy is the art of compromise and the very definition of negotiation implies a mutually beneficial outcome. In global conflict, there are no ‘good guys’ and no ‘bad guys,’ merely countries fighting for their self-interest.

  7. 7 Bob in Queensland
    October 31, 2008 at 13:24

    Re: Taliban

    I’ve always said that terrorism can’t be defeated by conventional armies and, much as it pains me to admit it, the applies to the Taliban too.

    Therefore, yes, we should talk to them–though I have to say I’m not optimistic of a successful outcome.

    As an aside, I hope the programme comes off…it would be fascinating!

  8. 8 Jennifer
    October 31, 2008 at 13:26


    I think there should be talks with the Taliban with conditions! I know that sounds like it would only cause problems but I really am not sure that without conditions it would be fruitful in building a bridge in which both parties could see eye to eye and come to any agreements. I am not sure that is possible! However, it is worth a try.

    Re: Celibacy and the RC Church

    Celibacy should still be enforced but I think that there should be much stricter oversight in selection of priests. Even with tougher selection; I am not sure that it would prevent totally issues from arising with result to sexuality. People are people and especially men…I don’t think that psychological testing is going to do the trick. Priests should be made accountable when they do something wrong rather than just shuffled somewhere else to get ride of the problem! We just need priests wanting to be priests for the right reasons and understanding if they want to be a Priest they should be willing to give up sex.

    Re: Obama

    So now he’s going from Saint to…..? Ok! I’ve never seen him as a miracle worker; just a smooth talker! If he wins, I won’t expect much from him.

    October 31, 2008 at 13:36

    Should the world talk to the Taliban?
    Maybe…some of the problems will go away to a point!

  10. 10 John in Salem
    October 31, 2008 at 13:39

    Let’s just put the Taliban and the Catholic church in a room together and let THEM work it out…

  11. 11 Dan
    October 31, 2008 at 14:06

    As long as the Taliban maintain their sanctuary in Pakistan they will be unwilling to talk to any end other than wearing down their adversary.
    In order to have any hope of talking with them they have to understand that they have much to lose without talking. What though will restrain them if, God forbid, they regain power?
    Remember Muhammad said that it was acceptable to call a truce with your enemy until you can rebuild your strength and position then attack them, again.
    Who will hold the Taliban accountable?
    Who will explain to the soldiers who gave up their lives that they have been betrayed?

  12. 12 DENNIS@OCC
    October 31, 2008 at 14:31

    Elections are coming!

    Here in the U.S. and I am counting down the time…


  13. October 31, 2008 at 20:11

    The question arises why now? Why was it not done in the first place? Policy of shoot first, and think later, never does anybody any good. At least with the bitter experiences of hindsight this can possibly be the most plausible situation, if the “other side” is also willing to talk. In either event a tough and challenging job for the incoming President to set the new pace.

  14. 14 Bryan
    October 31, 2008 at 22:49

    Sure, talk to the Taleban. Ask them why they feel it’s OK to:

    *Murder everyone who doesn’t follow their brand of Islam

    *Destroy ancient symbols of other religions

    *Publicly murder men in football stadiums for not having beards

    *Murder innocent civilians, including women, for the “crime” of being Christian.

    Yet the BBC will talk (and has talked) to the Taleban far more readily than it will talk , for example, to the BNP?

    I find that quite incredible. Do you guys actually know who the Taleban are, and do you really think that talking with infidels like yourselves will make the slightest impression on them?

  15. November 1, 2008 at 16:32

    Matthew November 1, 2008 at 4:33 am
    It’s not a case of whether the world, the British, Americans or another nation should meet and talk with Taliban. Someone has to, as is seriously recognised by Senior British Army Commanders. The conflict will just drag on and on with more casualties on either side being created at a greater level as the war continues and becomes ever more savage in its consequences. Sooner or later the Coalition Forces are going to suffer a huge loss, and one from which they might not fully recover and from whereby the morale of the soldiers may be damaged beyond repair. No matter how many hundreds or thousands the Taliban lose, the cause will remain the same, as that in Iraq being the removal of the invader and occupier of their lands. These guys don’t know when they’re beaten. Even when they’re down plenty more will step forward in their place and willingly offer themselves up for sacrifice.
    But never negotiate with terrorists, a well turned phrase by British and American government is being disingenuous to say the least. The British negotiated a settlement and possibly everlasting peace with the IRA in Northern Ireland, after brokering discussions in private and public. But the ability to reach that point came from years earlier where community leaders and secret service personnel were meeting at various times in the years that preceded any meeting. Never discuss or negotiate with terrorists is a lie in itself, carefully constructed and perpetrated by governments at the time who wish to give the impression that it’s Us versus Them. And all the time and we have right and justice on our side, and they have conflict and evil on theirs. If ever and only it were that simple. Of course we must create and maintain contact at any level with anybody similar to that which I have no doubt is going on as we speak, and that’s the case with Al Qaeda I’m sure. Famous journalists and one in particular has said so, Robert Fisk, who has actually met with Osama bin Laden on at least two occasions, is convinced there are communications between the West and Al Qaeda at some level, and some progress no matter how minimal is being made. The same goes for Palestine and Israel, somewhere along the line people are talking. But Mss’rs Blair, Bush and others will have you believing that we in the West have anything to do with these ghastly reprobates and never ever negotiate. A gross untruth!

  16. November 1, 2008 at 16:38


    Re.celibacy. Are you aware that Orthodox Christian priests are allowed to marry and have families with the blessing of the church. And the fall out to aberrant sexual behaviour, divorce and unwarranted actions towards the opposite or same sex is considerably less frequent? I’m interested why you think that celibacy within the Catholic Church should be held up as the ultimate example of honesty and rectitude?
    Re. Obama he’s a Great Dane, and a thoroughbred all rolled into one and therefore an animal of real stature. Palin is a be-rouged Pitbull and that’s all she is and ever will be! And others who are supposed to be supporting her and John McCain have quickly removed themselves from having any association with what could be a real road crash for the Republicans come Tuesday!

  17. 17 selena in Canada
    November 1, 2008 at 17:04

    It is amazing how much I looked forward to the weekends and the BP. 🙂 Miss you all very much!

    On Tuesday, the US will have a new President. Every few minutes, there is a new message from someone who is trying to give the impression that there will be blood spilled in the streets if Obama wins.

    Is that possible?

    Something big is afoot. Canadians who have no ties to the US have gone to the US to help with Obama’s campaign.

    What do Americans think about this? Are you happy that Canadians are going to help? Or, do you see this as intrusion and interference?


  18. November 1, 2008 at 20:36

    Just a stray thought:will Taliban be prepared to trace Bin Laden if he is to be handed over to the International Criminal Court? If I recall right , this was hinted by the Taliban regime then but turned down by the US. This holds the key to many unwanted deaths and continuing conflict.

  19. 19 Kelsie in Houston
    November 2, 2008 at 01:47

    The Roman Catholic Church’s approach to sexuality as a whole needs an aggiornamento, as John XXIII described the Second Vatican Council. Priestly celibacy is one of the more glaring aspects of what has been a largely flawed stance towards sexuality from Rome.

    However, the Church (and much of popular culture) is incorrectly linking the issue of pedophilia/pederasty with celibacy and/or homosexuality. If child rape were a venomous outgrowth of celibacy, the solution (allow priestly marriages) would be a simple one indeed—but this isn’t the case. Many instances of child molestation and even rape are perpetrated by males cohabiting in some arrangement with females.

    What Pope Paul VI’s Humanae Vitae did for birth control, Pope John Paul II’s Pastores Dabo Vobis did for celibacy: the Vatican’s inflexibly hard line on the issue is arguably worse for the general climate than the minority of child-abusing priests are.

    The Church (and pop culture) are also incorrectly using two terms interchangeably: pedophilia (general sexual attraction to children) and pederasty (specific to boys)—pedantic, but a point needing to be made.

    Bottom line (imho): the Roman Church needs clarity in its perception of what is causing the epidemic of child rape in the American wing of the Church, and a “perestroika,” of sorts, regarding its approach to humans as sexual creatures in general.

    (hope this isn’t too long!)

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